Ramey Air Force Base
|Ramey Air Force Base|
|Part of the Strategic Air Command|
|Located in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico|
13 October 1993
|Type||Air Force Base|
|Controlled by||Formerly the Strategic Air Command|
|Garrison||None – base deactivated in 1973|
Ramey Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. It was named after Brigadier General Howard Knox Ramey. BG Ramey and his 11-man crew in Boeing B-17F-1-BO Flying Fortress 41-24384 "PLUTO" disappeared during a reconnaissance mission in March 1943 and were never found.
- 1 History
- 2 Base closing
- 3 Closing and current use
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Origins of this air force base go back to 1936, when the necessity for an air base in Puerto Rico was recognized and advocated by United States Army Air Corps officials as a logical extension of the air defenses of the Panama Canal and of Puerto Rico itself. The Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School forwarded to the Chief of the Air Corps a report describing Puerto Rico as a "most valuable asset" for national defense and recommending establishment of an Army Air Base on the island.
In 1939, the Army sent Major George C. Kenney to Puerto Rico to conduct a preliminary survey of possible air base sites. He examined a total of 42 sites and declared that Punta Borinquen the best site for a major air base. Planted sugar cane farms covered some 3796 acres that the government purchased for military use in the first week of September 1939 at a cost of $1,215,000. Later that year, Major Karl S. Axtater assumed command of what was to become Borinquen Army Air Field. In a less than auspicious arrival, Axtater landed the first aircraft ever at the still crude, unprepared runway of Borinquen and blew the tire on the tail wheel of the plane, but no serious damage or injury resulted. The 27th Bombardment Squadron arrived from Langley Field, Virginia, in late 1939 with nine B-18A Bolo medium bombers as the first squadron based at Borinquen Field. 417th Bombardment Squadron arrived on 21 November 1939.
In 1940, the air echelon of the 25th Bombardment Group (14 B-18A aircraft and two A-17 aircraft) arrived at the base from Langley Field. After 1 November 1940, the base served as headquarters of 25th Bombardment Group.
On 13 December 1940, the "tempest-in-a-teapot" "Battle of Borinquen Field" took place. Strictly a misnomer, the "battle" consisted solely of an "alert" and nervous guards firing machine guns against a "non-existent enemy invasion force", in reality a friendly merchant vessel traveling inshore for protection. The "battle" lasted 15 minutes, and in the confusion, one woman was wounded.
World War II era
During World War II, the following squadrons were assigned to the airfield:
- Headquarters, 25th Bombardment Group, 1 November 1940 – 1 November 1942; 5 October 1943 – 24 March 1944
- 417th Bombardment Squadron, 21 November 1939 – 13 April 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
- 10th Bombardment Squadron, 1 November 1940 – 1 November 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
- 12th Bombardment Squadron, 1 November 1940 – 8 November 1941 (B-18 Bolo)
- 35th Bombardment Squadron, 31 October-11 November 1941 (B-18 Bolo)
- 44th Bombardment Squadron (40th Bombardment Group) 1 April 1941 – 16 June 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
- 20th Troop Carrier Squadron (Panama Air Depot) June 1942 – July 1943 (C-47 Skytrain)
- 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (72d Reconnaissance Group) 27 October 1943 – 21 May 1945; 5 October 1945 – 20 August 1946
Cold War era
- Antilles Air Command, 1 March-25 August 1946
- As: Antilles Air Division, 12 January 1948 – 22 January 1949
- 24th Composite Wing, 25 August 1946 – 28 June 1948
Following World War II, the Air Force significantly expanded Ramey Air Force Base for its new role as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber base. The 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium operated at Ramey AFB from 1950-1953 with RB-50 and KB-29 aircraft. In 1953, the 72nd Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Heavy, equipped with the B-36 Peacemaker aircraft, was established at Ramey AFB. However, the 72nd did not become fully operational until the last elements of the 55th SRW were absorbed by the newly established wing. The 72nd was later renamed the 72nd Bombardment Wing, Heavy and in 1959 transitioned to the B-52 Stratofortress. With the 72nd as the host wing, Ramey AFB continued to serve as a B-52 and KC-135 Stratotanker Strategic Air Command base until mid-1972.
- 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (Hurricane Hunters); tenant unit operating at Ramey AFB 15 Jun 66 – 1 Jul 73 with WB-47 Stratojet and WC-130 Hercules aircraft
Throughout 1972, Ramey AFB deactivated and the various units readied for closure. Some groups transferred out intact, while others gradually were phased out. The Air Force controlled the base until early 1974, when all remaining active units were dissolved. The Base had been formally closed in 1973. The main installation of Ramey AFB consisted of 3,139.55 acres. In February, 1974, the bulk of Ramey AFB proper (3,138 acres) was declared excess by the General Services Administration (GSA) and named the base Naval Station Roosevelt Roads West Annex. In July, 1974, the Air Force transferred 303 acres to the Navy. Of the remaining 257 acres, the Navy transferred 57+ acres to the Army, and 129 acres to the Coast Guard. In December 1974, the Air Force transferred 21 acres of land to the Coast Guard, which still utilizes the area.
Closing and current use
Despite the closure of the Ramey Air Force Base the military of the United States has maintained reduced presence in the area by the United States Coast Guard and the Reserve Component activity from the U.S. Army Reserve and, the Puerto Rico Army and Air National Guard. Other parts of the air base were reused by United States law enforcement agencies and the local government. The airfield is now a is a joint civil-military Rafael Hernández Airport. Institutions of education and tourism also have been a factor in the redevelopment of the former Ramey AFB.
Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen
In 1971, the United States Coast Guard relocated its aviation units from U.S. Naval Air Station Isla Grande in San Juan, Puerto Rico and established the Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. United States Coast Guard fact sheets and historical documents state that the U.S. Coast Guard took possession of, "...an outstanding hangar with adjacent support facilities," from the Air Force. Air Station Borinquen consist of many facilities around the former Ramey Base, this are a Coast Guard housing area formerly U.S. Air Force housing, a Coast Guard recruiting office, Medical Health Clinic and Dental Clinic, Base Library, Community Center, Swimming Pool, Coast Guard Exchange PX, Base Gymnasium and other fitness facilities, Base Chapel, Movie Theater, Child Development Center, and a Boys and Girls Club.
In 1973, Ramey AFB was closed by the Air Force as an active Air Force Base, part of a post-Vietnam War reduction-in-force (RIF) that closed-down numerous Air Force Bases. In the late 1970s the base was given to the town of Aguadilla for its care. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, most of the old military housing area was sold off to the general public, while a few base buildings were converted into facilities for other U.S. Government agencies. The former USAF Hospital was converted into the Marriott Courtyard Aguadilla, a three-star hotel and now one of the most visited hotels on the west side of the island.
As it was before the Air Force's departure, the primary mission of Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen remains search & rescue. Secondary missions include law enforcement, aerial support for ATON, and logistic support. To accomplish these missions, the Air Station has now four HH-65A Dolphin helicopters permanently assigned, as well as periodically hosting Coast Guard HC-130H and HC-130J Hercules, HU-25 Guardian, HC-144 Ocean Sentry and HH-60J Jayhawk aircraft normally based at other Coast Guard Air Stations. CGAS Borinquen consists of two runways (the primary runway, 11,700 feet (3,600 m) long, is still maintained), a very large former B-52 heavy bomber dispersal parking area, and numerous ramps and hangars. U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen is under the direct command of the 7th U.S. Coast Guard District in Miami, Florida.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen are the only permanent active duty military personnel at the former Ramey Air Force Base.
The Punta Borinquen Lighthouse located at the former Ramey Air Force Base is now lodging facility of Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. Borinquen Guest Cottages is operated by the Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen Morale, Welfare and Recreation Guest Housing office.
The Department of Defense Education Activity Ramey School located at 201 Arch Road educates the children of members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at Air Station Boriquen as well the children of AGR and ART personnel assigned to the various military Reserve Component activities at Ramey, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Agents, and other U.S. Government employees.
The Reserve Component of the U.S. Armed Forces continues to occupy some portions of the former Ramey Air Force Base along with a contingent of Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) and Air Reserve Technician (ART) personnel assigned to the various U.S. Army Reserve, Puerto Rico Army National Guard and Puerto Rico Air National Guard units at Ramey.
The U.S. Army Reserve Center (ARC) located at Cliff Road is home for the 81st Regional Support Command (RSC), 210th Regional Support Group, 246th Mortuary Affairs Company (the only mortuary affair unit in the U.S. Army Reserve), 210th Regional Support Group, the 77th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 91st Chaplain Detachment, 246th Quartermaster Company, the 311th Quartermaster Company, the 266th Ordnance Company and Branch Maintenance Area 161.
Punta Borinquen Radar Station is a Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG) installation located next to Punta Borinquen Golf Course. It is home for the 141st Air Control Squadron of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. A small National Guard Exchange (NGX) BX is also located at the Punta Borinquen Radar Station.
Federal Law Enforcement
Various U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) federal law enforcement agencies have a very significant presence in the area such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Ramey Sector at 722 Belt St conducts operations from the former Ramey AFB, while the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Immigration Detention Center is located at 505 Gun Road. A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office is also at Ramey.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) Ramey Job Corps Central Campus is located at Belt St. Building #760. This facility has an Administration Office, Wellness Center, Female Dormitory, Male Dormitory, Cafeteria and Classrooms.
Rafael Hernandez International Airport
Rafael Hernandez International Airport is the current joint civil-military commercial airport located on the site of the former Ramey Air Force Base. It is named after the Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández Marín and is the second international airport in Puerto Rico in the region of Porta del Sol, Puerto Rico's west coast. In 1988, Rafael Hernández Airport started to surface as an alternative to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, when Carnival Air Lines and ATA began jet services. In the 1990s, American Airlines joined those two airlines. Later on, Pan Am and TWA also came.
In 2000, North American Airlines re-opened passenger service with a non-stop flight to New York-JFK three times a week. Later on Continental Airlines joined North American with a daily flight to their hub in Newark. The evident success of service from the Aguadilla, caught the attention of Boston-Maine Airways that opened a route to Orlando-Sanford and Santo Domingo.
Rafael Hernandez Airport continued expanding for the next several years with addition of Jet Blue Airways with 2 daily flights to New York-JFK and Orlando, Florida. Delta Air Lines Connection began regional jet service to Atlanta, Georgia five times a week. Spirit Airlines began service from the airport to their hub in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a flight five times a week during the summer.
In 2006 and 2007, the former Ramey AFB control tower was renovated and reopened as the Rafael Hernandez International Airport control tower. By the low season of 2007, there were 59 flights per week, 1 daily flight to New York, 1 to Newark and Orlando and a flight 5 times per week to Ft. Lauderdale. FedEx also has an air cargo terminal at this airport.
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, announced at the International Fair of Tourism, in Madrid, that charter flights to the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona will commence on March 2011. The flights will begin in a weekly basis for a period of 6 months with goals of permanent service to the European cities. The flight to Madrid will be on Saturdays, while the one to Barcelona will be on Sundays. They will be on a Boeing 767 with capacity for 214 passengers in an 18/196 configuration.
University of Puerto Rico Aguadilla campus
The University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla (UPRAG) is one of eleven campuses in the University of Puerto Rico system. The campus was originally established in 1972 and moved in 1975 to its actual location in a 35.86 acres of land at the former Ramey Air Force Base.
Punta Borinquen Golf Course
The Ramey AFB Golf Course was one of President Dwight D. Eisenhower favorite golf courses. When the Air Force left Ramey, this became the first public golf course in Puerto Rico.
- Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
- Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
- Ramey AFB Historical Association
- Airport information for TJBQ at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.